Galapagos Field Report
Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, and the International Whaling Commission
Many humpback whales are born in Ecuadorian waters and migrate to the Antarctic waters each year. In Ecuador's Puerto Lopez alone, it is estimated that 2,000 whales arrive between June and August every year to give birth. The whale watching industry in Ecuador is booming with over 15,000 visitors generating approximately USD$3,630,000.00 every year. Ecuador has a strong history of protecting whales within territorial waters and it is currently illegal to hunt whales in territorial waters. The Galapagos Islands, a province of Ecuador, have been a declared whale sanctuary since 1990. "There is no doubt that whales are a source of income for Ecuador's tourism industry and the protection of these whales must go beyond national waters otherwise they will not return," comments Sea Shepherd Galapagos Director Sean O'Hearn-Gimenez.
Sea Shepherd Galapagos has been working hard since last year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in St. Kitts to secure Ecuador's vote this May in Anchorage, Alaska. O'Hearn-Gimenez made several trips to Quito to meet with politicians, environmental leaders, and officials of the whale watching industry to discuss strategies to inform the new government of the importance of sending a delegation of Ecuadorian leaders to the IWC meeting this year in Alaska. The current Ecuadorian minister of the environment, Ana Alban, stated that the government of Ecuador is requesting that the IWC put a halt to the so-called scientific whaling that occurs in Antarctica.
The Latin American vote will be crucial this year and can prove to be the difference for the protection of these gentle giants of the sea. Twelve Latin American countries got together in December to sign an important agreement to protect the whales and to declare a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. Among those who attended include IWC delegates from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, México, Panamá y Perú, and observers from Colombia, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The countries were also looking to coordinate efforts to end commercial whaling and lethal scientific whaling. The idea is to make a request at the next IWC meeting in Alaska to declare a whale sanctuary in the Southern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans from Ecuador down to the Antarctic region.
"Sea Shepherd Galapagos is urging Ecuador to expand their protection of the whales, thus ensuring the survival of its whale watching industry. The whales that visit Ecuadorian coasts, including the Galapagos Islands, are in danger of being killed by the threat of commercial whaling. Ecuador must act, as they have done in the past, by joining the IWC this year and casting its vote" states O'Hearn-Gimenez.